Making a Difference: Interview with Dayle Haddon


Social media has made a huge difference in my life, and one of the best things to come out of a tweet was the opportunity to interview Dayle Haddon. You may be familiar with Haddon's successful career as a model, and as the only individual to hold a contract with the four big beauty brands at one time. Dayle has since established the non-profit WomenOne, and she and her team are making a real difference in educating girls across the world.

Dayle's story is one of hard work, determination and grit. It's inspiring to its core, and I'm excited to share my interview with her below. Hope you will feel as inspired as I am!
The Author with Dayle, 2013.
Tell us about the journey of WomenOne and why you wanted to establish a non-profit.

WomenOne advocates for the power of one educated girl to transform her life, inspire a community and change the world. I was initially unsure on what to focus on, but I knew that I wanted to help people that were in trouble. This idea developed to improving education, and more specifically secondary education, as it is where the drop-off for these women and girls occurs.

I have been a UNICEF Ambassador since 2008, and through my involvement, I have travelled to countries such as Africa and South America. On these journeys, I saw that women and girls were falling through the cracks, particularly during a visit to a small Angolan clinic where they only had two microscopes. The project was on a scale that was too small for UNICEF.

In Bolivia, c/o Dayle Haddon.
What projects are WomenOne currently working on?

I naively thought that I could visit two countries a year with WomenOne! I’m also a Free the Children Ambassador and travelled to Kenya to help build a school. A lot of girls’ tuition was not paid for and I offered to provide my help. I initially managed to sponsor four girls, and thanks to support in the US, many more are now being sponsored yearly. I returned to see how they were progressing and 60 Minutes did a lead story about it back in 2012. We’re also involved with a Goldman Sachs mentoring scheme that is mentoring 10,000 women.

I’ve also travelled to Turkey, and in May 2013 I visited 10 cities in 9 days. The Turkish Philanthropy Fund runs successful programs throughout the country, and there are some areas in the Eastern side of the country that are still ‘medieval’ in their practices. I also visited the border between Iran and Syria and met with Syrian refugees who are living in camps. I could hear the shellings taking place in the country, and heard about how the crisis is impacting Syrian people, both wealthy and poor. Many of the children were so traumatized that they couldn’t speak for many months. I recently returned to the region with UNICEF.

Closer to home, I’ve held fundraisers in New York that have provided scholarships and education to prevent arranged marriages. WomenOne is now focusing upon Syrian refugees and is sponsoring two Duke fellows in the field for a year to provide education in and on the camps in Turkey and Jordan. I’d love to build a Peace Center eventually!

Panzi Hospital, Congo, c/o Dayle Haddon.
What advice can you offer to individuals hoping to start their own non-profit?

Focus on an area that you are most attracted to and interested in. Learn and do as much research as possible, and volunteer in your community or on a project over the summer to become an expert. It’s important to get your feet wet to see if you like it! Engage with others, and above all, be passionate about your interests.

Before I travel to a country I read everything I can so I can authentically connect with others. Columbia University runs many fascinating classes, and I often sit in on them. For example, I attended one on Islam that provided me with really valuable information for when I travelled to Muslim countries.
I guess I am the perennial and perpetual student, as I love to learn!  I’m also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations which has been extremely helpful and insightful into my line of work.

What is the best memory of your time as a model?

I’m not a model who ever thought the industry is dumb. I loved it, and I found it was more about ability, communication and reaching to the audience through the camera. I think I was more proactive and more satisfied than other models in the profession.

Great photographers are great artists and I’ve been fortunate to work with many of them. It’s extremely satisfying working with talented people.

Rural school in Darfur, c/o Dayle Haddon.
In your opinion, how has the industry evolved, and do you think it is better or worse?

The modeling world was smaller and intimate in my time, and there were no models with ‘names.’ I think I was the first model to have my name by my photos. The pay was smaller, and of course, there was no social media! Digital photography has brought a different feeling. A great person makes a great photo, and I find being photographed on film is much more real.  You don’t get the same feeling of connection with a digital camera.

During my time in the beauty industry I constantly thought of the women who were buying the products and tried to connect with them through the photograph. I have been known to sell lots of products, and I’d like to think that is the reason why. I held four big contracts during one time (L’Oreal, Max Factor, Revlon and Estee Lauder,) and women still write to me saying that they felt a connection. I’ve also found that I am big on airlines- particularly with stewards!

What do you hope your legacy as a model and an individual dedicated to ageless beauty will be?

I’m unsure if there is a legacy, but I do try to translate a sense of humanity and ‘something bigger.’ You are special and unique and you can make a difference. It’s important to know your value and that’s what beauty is.

Last year I attended We Day in Winnipeg and spoke about how inner beauty comes from being caring, thoughtful, and giving back to society. Your body is like a vehicle- it gets you around, but you need to enhance the inner you in every way you can.

With Mama Monica in Maasai Mara, c/o Dayle Haddon.
How did you establish your company, Dayle Haddon Concepts? What advice can you offer to those looking to start their own business?

I am an ideas person- if I can see it, I can do it.

I was called to the issue of aging and beauty through my own individual experience. At 37 I was told by the industry that I was too old! This is the message that women are continuing to hear, and I wanted to change the perception of the industry from the inside. Consequently I wrote a book and toured with it to 26 cities throughout the USA. If you’re alive, love all your life. Don’t hold on to a number and feel free to hear what your age is giving you.

To establish the company, I used a Barron’s Dictionary and used some of my connections to arrange meetings on Wall Street to raise capital. Sometimes not knowing is better.

If you’re looking to start your own business, the advice I would offer is:

Create the product- you can’t be the product.
‘No means maybe’- people just don’t know yet.
You can learn much more by asking.
Stay positive, resilient, and persistent and don’t take things personally. Love what you do and surround yourself with positive thinkers.

How has your upbringing influenced the work that you do today?

I’m from Canada, and there were always four distinct seasons. I played sport and tried to be healthy and natural. Our home was like a halfway house for children who were in between terrible things. I actively participated in food drives, sent toys to UNICEF collections and volunteered at hospitals.

Maasai Mara, c/o Dayle Haddon.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?

I don’t! Part of my work is my fun, but I am conscious not to burn out. I am disciplined about exercise and I walk my dogs in Central Park regularly. I am not a good vacation person, and only really take them for work purposes. I do like having massages, but I don’t like any other beauty treatments- I guess because I associate them with work. For me, the weekend is sacrosanct. I like museums, but not going to the cinema. I like to be around nature, particularly outside of the city, and spending time with my friends and family.

What lessons have you learned from the challenges that you’ve experienced in your life?

Don’t give up. Persistence is more important than talent. Enthusiasm, passion and excitement are what people relate to. Exhaust people into doing what you want. It’s not personal- don’t waste your energy!

There are many creative ways to knock the socks off and convince people both at the top and the bottom.

Dayle in the Congo with a young child she supports, c/o Dayle Haddon.
How has mentoring made a difference in your personal and professional life?

You always need to ask the opinions of others in life, and it’s important to keep collaborating for new blood and new ideas. I would suggest to readers that don’t ask for money, but instead, ask for advice. People are more willing to share their advice, and if they like your idea, hopefully they will then give capital!

Everyone likes to help those younger than them. I always talk to my interns about what they have learnt.

I continue to mentor and work with women at different stages of their career. For example, Fran Hauser helps WomenOne through her connections and also through her excellent brainstorming. It’s important that women step up to the plate and use all their resources to help.

It’s also important to say thank you all the time with notes, flowers, or simply words. Without them you didn’t get there.

I would rather like myself that get ahead. When you leave this world, leave it better because of your presence. Make up for what you took.

Who do you seek inspiration from?

My grandchildren, daughter and people that I meet everyday. I always ask cab drivers what keeps them optimistic, and they say that it’s their customers.

Dayle with Malala, c/o Dayle Haddon.
Which female leaders do you admire and why?

Hillary Clinton, Malala, Christiane Amanpour, Aung San Suu Kyi, Gloria Steinem. My Mom is a big inspiration.

I think people going the extra mile don’t always get validation. Moms raising kids are doing such an important job as they are raising new human beings. They are unsung heroines. My daughter is a full time Mom, and she’s my hero.

What words do you think best describe who you are?

Laughter, joy, love and making a difference. A loving person for those around me and those who I touch.

Rania and Suaid, two women that Dayle interviewed, c/o Dayle Haddon.
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